Talking Tramlines is the day-by-day blog of Tramlines 2021, which today covers the second day of the festival on Saturday, 24 July.
It’s day two and while walking onto the Hillsborough grass feels heavenly again, my body and mind feel pretty hellish this time. My spirit is still strong though. Another full day (well, half day, after walking up at midday and arriving in the late afternoon) of live music in the Steel City. Bring it on.
Sheffield spirits are still high for day two as the park remains packed. Sarah Nulty’s Main Stage is getting warmed up by a host of northern artists who are killing it at the moment. Beginning with the Steel City songwriting queen Lucy Spraggan, followed by Wigan group The Lathums, and then Barnsley boys The Sherlocks. Each drives up a bigger crowd as people begin to gather for Blossoms and Royal Blood later in the evening.
Despite the talent on the Main Stage, it seems Saturday is The day for T’Other Stage. The VLM spent most our time in this tent throughout the course of the day. Writer, poet, performer, and all-round talented guy, Otis Mensah, was visibly glowing to be back on stage. The Sheffield song-writer and the city’s first Poet Laureate had heaps of new material to offer, written and released during lockdown.
Yard Act, with just four official releases to their name also killed it on T’Other Stage. Front man of the Leeds group, James Smith, is the perfect showman for a northern crowd. The witty quips in their tracks are personified well by Smith on stage who emulates his composite character from ‘Fixer Upper’ perfectly during the track. “I’m Graeme by the way, I don’t know if I mentioned”.
Like Mensah, drummer-turned-solo-star, Georgia, was clearly radiating to be performing live again. For someone relatively small in stature, Georgia seems to have the biggest energy reserve of any performer. She won’t allow the crowd to have a break and they willingly oblige, giving it their all in response to her performance. Her stage set up is one of the best of the night, elevating her setlist as she rattles through tracks from her discography. Hits from the 2020 mercury nominated album, Seeking Thrills, noticeably get the best response, with ‘Started Out’ causing a riot.
Despite the incredible talent of Mahalia delivering a sublime performance as headliner of the T’Other stage, it was Little Simz who stole the night. Wild but poignant, and ferocious but controlled, the London rapper delivered an epic set. Simz was soaking in the experience of performing again, with arms wide, and a grin even wider. Simz and the phenomenal band began on a high with ‘Offence’ and didn’t return to Earth until the set came to a close.
Tracks from the Mercury Prize nominated Grey Area dominated, with ‘101 FM’, ‘Boss’, and ‘Therapy’ all delivered with an unfaltering level of confidence and composure. As things heated up, the denim jacket came off and Simz tested the water with new tracks, working the crowd with her latest single ‘I Love You, I Hate You,’ a “deeply personal track” that took “a long time to write”. Going one further, the Tramlines crowd were then treated to an unreleased track ‘Little Q Pt. 2’ from upcoming album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. It shows Simz’ confidence in her latest material to save them for the end of the set, closing the show with the empowering ‘Woman’, also to feature on the upcoming record.
Despite the mad levels of talent on display at T’Other Stage, the Main Stage couldn’t be ignored for headliners Royal Blood. With refined sound engineering and armed largely with only a bass and an elaborate drum kit featuring a gong (we’ll come back that), the duo performed a flawless rock and roll performance to thousands.
There were three key highlights from the set. Firstly the insane drum solo from Ben Thatcher during ‘Little Monster’ which culminated with the aforementioned gong. Secondly an equally insane guitar solo courtesy of Mike Kerr following ‘Out of the Black’. And finally – and most importantly, Kerr’s silver boots which the cameraman took a shining to (quite literally), featuring on the screen more often than any instrument. The set closed with an encore featuring cuts from Typhoons, including the undeniably infectious ‘Limbo’.
Day three, I’m ready for ya.
Images: Jacob Flannery